Now that it's been in theaters for a couple of weeks, Alita: Battle Angel looks like it will prove the doubters wrong and become a sizable box office hit. Live-action manga adaptations haven't had much success critically or commercially over the years, with 2017's Ghost in the Shell being a recent example. Despite having a top notch creative team of producer James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez, many were convinced Alita would follow suit and ultimately be a disappointment. The early tracking seemed to suggest it was going to bomb, with a projected domestic opening of only $23 million.
But bolstered by generally positive reviews, Alita was able to take advantage of weak competition and exceed expectations, netting $42.2 million domestically in its first five days. While that's by no means a record-breaking figure, it's nearly double what the initial projections were, signaling Alita wouldn't be an unmitigated box office disaster. What's more is that at the time of its U.S. release, the film had yet to open in some key worldwide markets, which only make it more successful.
This past weekend, Alita premiered in China, famously known as the second-largest film market. The film got a major boost from Middle Kingdom audiences, scoring $64.8 million in its debut - a new record for Fox. Alita's actually made more in China so far than it has in America (domestic gross: $61.9 million), illustrating how much of a draw this property is for international audiences. Unsurprisingly, the movie's done very well globally, earning $265.7 million as of this writing. More than 76 percent of its total gross has come from foreign territories, making Alita the latest in a growing line of titles that have been saved by strong showings overseas. An easy comparison to make is Pacific Rim, which made $411 million worldwide and spawned a sequel despite a soft $101.8 million Stateside haul.
The widely-accepted rule of thumb is that a movie needs to gross twice its production budget in order to make its money back. With Alita's budget approximately $170 million (though some reports had it as high as $200 million), that means it needs to earn $340 million to break even. Obviously, it still has a little ways to go before hitting that number. It's about $74.3 million from reaching that target. Especially if it holds well in China, it should pass the mark in the near future, with everything else from there becoming profit. Alita won't enter the $1 billion club or even challenge the worldwide totals of something like Venom because it's tailed off so much domestically, but Fox will be able to rest easy knowing they won't have to take a loss. Pacific Rim's haul of $411 million seems attainable for Alita, but time will tell.
What this means for the future of the Alita film franchise is uncertain. It's a Fox property, and soon that studio will be part of Disney's ever-expanding media empire. There have yet to be any official updates about an Alita sequel, and it'll ultimately be up to the Mouse House if the series is to continue. The numbers prove there's some interest in the manga adaptation, but they admittedly pale in comparison to Disney's go-to cash cows like Marvel and Pixar. With so much under their umbrella, Disney may not prioritize another Alita film, but if the first one continues to make money and ends its run with a healthy total, it could be enough to encourage them to take a swing.